Health and Life Guide to Suicide Prevention for Veterans

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Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent

UPDATED: Sep 23, 2020

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If you are a veteran in crisis, or if are concerned about someone you know who is, you can call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, send a text to 838255, or contact the Veterans Crisis Line online. It is staffed by Department of Veterans Affairs qualified responders.

You can also contact other suicide prevention lines, a counselor, a medical professional, or a hospital.

If you, or someone you know, are thinking about hurting or killing yourself, or may harm others, dial 911 immediately.

 

When going through a crisis, veterans may experience it more severely due to previous traumatizing experiences while in military service. This is especially tur for veterans who have PTSD. 

This and other factors, such as drug and alcohol use, injuries, difficulty in transitioning back to civilian life, and a lack of resources or support has led veterans to have a substantially higher risk of suicide than the overall population.

Because of this, dealing with the challenges and risks that veterans face is of the utmost importance. Suicide preventions may include counseling, treatment for addiction, the help of a support group, or getting a veteran supportive care they may require.

The most important things to keep in mind are that suicide is preventable and that you are not alone. There is help, and there is hope. 

Statistics

Veteran suicides have the attention of the VA as they look for ways to combat the rising numbers.

The following are statistics regarding veteran suicides in the United States:

  • The veteran suicide rate is one and a half times greater than in the non-veteran population.
  • There are more than 6,000 veteran suicides each year.
  • Almost seventy percent of veteran suicides involve a firearm.
  • Veterans in VHA have a lower rate of suicide compared to those who are not in VHA care.
  • The army has more than half the suicides of all military branches combined.
  • A veteran dies of suicide approximately every sixty-five minutes.
  • Sixty-nine percent of veteran suicide victims are over the age of fifty, although there has been a recent spike in younger active military as well as veterans committing suicide.
  • The Veterans Crisis Line has had more than three million calls since it opened.
  • Combat veterans are more likely to have suicidal ideation.
  • Those with PTSD have an increased risk of suicide.

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Signs and Symptoms

There are many possible signs of crisis. They may include:

  • Feeling anxious or alone may be a sign
  • Thinking or talking about suicide
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Being sad or depressed for extended times
  • Feeling that things are hopeless or impossible
  • Experiencing insomnia or restlessness
  • Engaging in risk behaviors
  • Being agitated or going through mood swings
  • Feeling like there is no reason to live
  • Having excessive guilt or shame
  • A sense of failure or worthlessness
  • Violent behavior or activities
  • Giving away favorite or prized possessions
  • Anger or rage
  • A decline in physical appearance or hygiene
  • A loss of interest in work, school, or hobbies
  • Drug or alcohol abuse and misuse
  • Showing violent behavior, like punching a hole in the wall or getting into fights
  • Tying up loose ends by activities such as writing a will

Resources:

Suicide Prevention

If you are a friend, family member, or other concerned individual and would like to know what you can do to help prevent a suicide:

Preventing suicide starts with recognizing the signs and symptoms, such as the ones above.

If you know someone you are concerned about, be there for them. Feeling less alone can significantly reduce the risk of suicide.

Ask them non-threatening questions to determine if they are suicidal and to help them to talk about it.

Contact a helpline, counselor, or emergency services.

If you are a veteran and are experiencing thoughts of suicide or are going through a difficult time:

Take a veterans self-check quiz if you are unsure about what you are experiencing.

Reach out for help to a friend, family member clergyperson, counselor, helpline, or hospital.

If you are in immediate crisis, dial 911.

Remember, you do not need to be alone in this struggle.

Resources:

Treatment and Therapy

Treatment to help cope with suicidal thoughts and behaviors may involve counseling, medication, or a combination of both. Lifestyle changes may also help to prevent suicidal thoughts from surfacing again later.

Counseling may help you to find solutions, gain perspective, and find healthy ways of coping. Medication can affect brain chemicals that may be contributing to depression.

Seek out a mental health professional through the VA or your local area. 

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Additional Resources

Are you looking for more resources and do not know where to start? There are plenty of resources available online that focus on mental health and healing for active duty military and veterans who may be going through a crisis and need assistance.

For both general and specific help for disabled veterans, visit the Wounded Warrior Project.

If you are looking for a variety of resources for suicide and mental health for veterans, visit GiveAnHour’s resource center. They have several useful links and are a great place to start.

If you have lost a loved one in combat or to suicide, visit TAPS for support.

Active Heroes has its own list of suicide prevention and other national resources offered by them as well as their partners.

Veterans Families United offers a list of mental health resources for veterans as well as active duty military.

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